In the terrific 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Instant Queue it up, you guys!), cameras were rolling when Rivers agreed to join the cast of Celebrity Apprentice. At the time she felt Donald Trump's C-list sideshow was beneath her, but Rivers eventually agreed to participate partly because (fun fact!) she'd been banned from NBC Late Night after she betrayed Johnny Carson by getting her own show on Fox, but also because she was broke and generally doesn't turn down work. As we all remember, despite daughter Melissa's memorably ridiculous meltdown halfway through the season, Joan Rivers ended up winning the whole thing, proving that behind her amusement park animatronic exterior beats the heart of a shrewd businesswoman.
But Rivers' shrewdness began even before taping commenced, as she had her staff compile a dossier on her fellow contestants before the season began. Good thinking, Joan Rivers! Well, Joan Rivers is nothing if not inspiring, so I've gone ahead and prepared a dossier of the NEW cast of Celebrity Apprentice in honor of its Sunday premiere. So without further ado…
LET'S MEET THIS MENAGERIE OF WEIRDOS!
Initial Rise to Fame: It's a strange thing to consider, but at one point in time Gary Busey was an actor. Not only that, but he appeared in respectable films and even did a GOOD JOB in them. With movies like Lethal Weapon, Point Break, and The Firm to his name, Busey's resumé is as solid and respectable as any other character actor of his era. I know, right?
How it Came to This: In recent years, Busey's most notable roles have been named Gary Busey. Whether he's playing himself on Entourage or appearing on any VH1 reality show that will have him, his willingness to be absolutely nuts on camera has led to a career low point. Or is it a career renaissance? What's the difference anymore?
Initial Rise to Fame: Cuban-born Jose Canseco spent the better part of the '80s and '90s as a hulking MLB powerhouse. He first made his name with the Oakland A's, then moved on to the Texas Rangers and a handful of other teams before retiring in 2002.
How it Came to This: In 2005, Canseco released a book in which he not only admitted to steroid use but also NAMED NAMES of other players who'd juiced as well (hi, Mark McGwire!). Adding to that his fondness for nonstop publicity and a stint on VH1's The Surreal Life, Canseco has more than earned his place of honor on Hollywood's famewhoring C-list.
Initial Rise to Fame: In the 1970s, David Cassidy became the quintessential teen idol for his stirring work on the very highbrow program The Partridge Family. At the height of his success, he'd released dozens of records and sold out stadiums around the world.
How it Came to This: In short, Cassidy stopped being a teenager. Record sales slowed, his career ambitions waned, and he made the slow, gentle conversion to nostalgia act before the 1990s had even begun.
Initial Rise to Fame: Hope Dworaczyk was born with genetic material that allowed her to earn money for the way she looks. After pursuing nude modeling work at Playboy through the usual channels, she eventually "achieved" 2010 Playmate of the Year.
How it Came to This: Running out of articles of clothing to remove on camera is like the glass ceiling for nude models. How does one get past it? Reality TV, apparently.
Initial Rise to Fame: Back in the early innocent days of the first season of Survivor, the idea that contestants could band together and form a voting ALLIANCE was completely unthinkable. This audacity, coupled with Richard Hatch's fondness for nudism and catty scheming, made him America's most watercooler-worthy villain right on up until his ultimate victory.
How it Came to This: Then Hatch forgot to pay taxes on his winnings (and subsequent appearance fees) and went to prison for a long time. Then he got out and then got re-arrested for violating probation. Oh, Richard Hatch!
Initial Rise to Fame: For decades now, the Jackson family's second-most famous sister has more or less coasted on the publicity that surrounds both her last name and her own insanity. LaToya Jackson spent the better part of the 1990s married to an alleged con man, posed for Playboy and regularly dispensed hilariously mean soundbites directed at her brother Michael and their parents. The family didn't take any of these things well. Fair enough!
How it Came to This: Eventually LaToya divorced her husband, reconciled with her family, and dutifully showed up to support Michael at his various court dates. After years of throwing herself at any camera with a blinking red light, participating on Celebrity Apprentice might actually be the classiest thing LaToya Jackson's done in years.
Initial Rise to Fame: Fourteen years and a couple hundred pounds ago, Star Jones was the sassy obese lawyer who sat between Debbie Matenopoulos and Meredith Vieira on The View. Over the course of eight seasons, her personality dominated the proceedings, frequently making entire episodes about her personal life, wedding, and frighteningly dramatic weight loss.
How it Came to This: After an acrimonious firing by ABC, Star Jones has spent the years since then offering catty soundbites about Barbara Walters and showing up on any red carpet that will have her.
Initial Rise to Fame: As the most intentionally hilarious and immediately likable member of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, NeNe's 'tude is usually best demonstrated through her on-again, off-again rivalry with the ridiculous platinum beast known as Kim Zolciak. They're just a delightful pair, really.
How it Came to This: Seems NeNe's had some financial problems over the years: Eviction, bankruptcy, allegations of money laundering. It happens to the best of us (no it doesn't).
Initial Rise to Fame: Once one of the most sought-after producers in Hip Hop, Lil Jon is known as one of the pioneers of crunk and the owner of the world's best diamond-encrusted crunk juice goblet. Also, Dave Chappelle did a killer impersonation of him.
How it Came to This: Crunk is just SO 2004.
Initial Rise to Fame: At the age of 21, and for her first-ever film performance, Marlee Matlin won an Oscar for Best Actress. Not too shabby! Although that role and most of her work since then have involved her real-life deafness, Matlin continues to be generally well-regarded for her tireless community outreach efforts.
How it Came to This: Sadly there aren't TOO many roles for middle-aged deaf women these days. Anyway, the contestants are playing for charity, right?
Initial Rise to Fame: As the scuzzy/hunky lead singer of Sugar Ray, Mark McGrath somehow avoided jail time for ruining our brains through incessant airplay of "Fly." After Sugar Ray decided to hang it up, McGrath went on to have a lucrative career in hosting television shows like Extra and Don't Forget the Lyrics. Though his resumé is probably best spray-painted on the side of a garbage truck, he's generally regarded as being a likable guy.
How it Came to This: Celebrity Apprentice is actually a step up from Don't Forget the Lyrics, one of the most maddeningly un-entertaining game shows on television.
Initial Rise to Fame: As the rotund crooner of Jim Steinman's powerful songs, Meat Loaf burst onto the 1970s rock scene like a… Like a… Man, what's the metaphor I want to use? Anyway, his early music work made him an icon. "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"? Still incredible.
How it Came to This: After achieving a late-career revival through acting roles in Fight Club and various procedurals, Meat Loaf has entered into self-mythologizing territory in recent years. New albums and tours have happened, but let's face it, people just want to hear OH! RIGHT, Bat out of Hell. Such a good album!
Initial Rise to Fame: Originally the bass player and vocalist in huge-selling country band Lonestar, John Rich later sold tons of records as part of the duo Big & Rich. You know what? I'm not going to pretend the country music industry isn't a big mystery to me. They sell SO MANY records but still don't get much coverage. I'm guessing he was a big deal once. Now I'll never know.
How it Came to This: Big & Rich are technically on hiatus, so Rich has mostly been writing and producing for other artists. He's probably not poor. Maybe he's just bored? Again, it's all a mystery to me.
Initial Rise to Fame: Lisa Rinna spent most of the 1990s being the poor man's Heather Locklear, which, let's face it, even Heather Locklear was affordable to poor men. Anyway, she carved out a career for herself in various Spelling Productions and soap operas before finally succumbing to the reality TV dance competition bug.
How it Came to This: I'm frankly not sure what Lisa Rinna's been doing since Dancing With the Stars. Tons of charity work, hopefully? Fighting crime at night? No idea.
Initial Rise to Fame: Niki Taylor is supermodel royalty. She was one of the big ones, you guys. Her face was ubiquitous… Billboards, magazines, perfume ads, PLUS she never got tacky by pursuing an acting career (that I KNOW of). After her various high-profile contracts began to elapse, she simply allowed her career to tastefully move behind the camera for various business ventures. That's how it's done, folks.
How it Came to This: Taylor returned to the spotlight a few years ago to host Bravo's late, great Make Me a Supermodel. Then poof! Nothing again. Oh, Niki, such a wily character.
Initial Rise to Fame: Second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charted female singer of all time, Dionne Warwick has certainly earned her icon status. With hits like "Walk on By," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Warwick not only sold a ton of records and guaranteed her presence in karaoke bars for the rest of eternity, but she also paved the way for her younger cousin Whitney Houston to continue the family business.
How it Came to This: Warwick's career took a turn for the dubious when she hosted infomercials for the Psychic Friends Network during the early 1990s. Although she was presumably well-paid for her work, one of her so-called "friends" neglected to warn her that the company would go bankrupt and so too would be Warwick's credibility. Donald Trump the rescue!
So now that you know all the scoop, who do you think will win this season of Celebrity Apprentice?!?